The global death toll from the coronavirus pandemic is close to 76,000, including nearly 11,000 in the United States. In Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson spent the night in intensive care after his COVID-19 symptoms worsened Monday. A Cabinet member has said Johnson received oxygen but has not been put on a ventilator. Britain’s foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, is running the country while Johnson is in the ICU. Johnson has been widely criticized for his government’s initial approach to handling the coronavirus outbreak, which has killed more than 5,000 in Britain. Johnson initially discouraged social distancing and advocated for letting the virus burn rapidly through the population in order to build “herd immunity.” In early March, Johnson even boasted about shaking hands at a hospital treating COVID-19 patients.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: “I am shaking hands continuously. I was at a — I was at a hospital the other night where I think there were a few — there were actually a few coronavirus patients. And I shook hands with everybody, you’ll be pleased to know, and I continue to shake hands.”
Up to 97% of U.S. residents are now under some sort of stay-at-home order, though the Trump administration has resisted imposing a national lockdown despite the urging of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top member of his coronavirus task force. There are now over 367,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S. — more than one-quarter of the reported total cases worldwide, though the actual numbers both in the U.S. and around the world are likely much higher due to limited testing.
A bipartisan group of 11 senators, including four Republicans, have called on Trump to invoke the Defense Production Act to address the nationwide shortage of protective equipment for first responders. A new report by the Health and Human Services watchdog confirms severe and widespread shortages of critical medical gear at hospitals across the country, putting medical staff at high risk. When questioned about the report Monday, Trump sought to discredit the findings, suggesting the HHS inspector general was politically motivated. Trump also lashed out at a reporter after a question about failures to test people for the coronavirus.
President Donald Trump: “We’re the federal government. We’re not supposed to stand on street corners doing testing. They go to doctors. They go to hospitals. They go to the state. The state is a more localized government.”
Voters in Wisconsin face a choice today between exercising their right to vote and protecting their health, after an 11th-hour attempt by Governor Tony Evers to delay the state’s primary through an executive order was quashed by Wisconsin’s right-leaning Supreme Court. Wisconsin’s Democratic governor and the Republican-led Legislature have been battling over the fate of the election for weeks, as Governor Evers has faced stiff opposition in his efforts to delay the vote over concerns about the coronavirus. Wisconsin’s poll workers are overwhelmingly elderly, and many pulled out due to the dangers posed by the coronavirus. Milwaukee went from 180 to just five polling locations.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court sided with Wisconsin Republicans Monday in a 5-4 vote against extending the absentee ballot deadline to next week. Tens of thousands of Wisconsonites may have their votes thrown out — even though they will not even receive ballots until after Election Day due to a surge in demand because of the coronavirus outbreak. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg warned in her dissent that the court’s decision “will result in massive disenfranchisement.”
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said Monday the curve of coronavirus deaths appears to be flattening after the death toll stabilized at around 600 deaths on both Sunday and Monday, but he warned the situation is still dire and New Yorkers would need to maintain strict measures to continue the trend.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: “If we are plateauing, we are plateauing at a very high level, and there’s tremendous stress on the healthcare system. And to say to this healthcare system — which is at maximum capacity today, right? This is a hospital system where we have our foot to the floor and the engine is at red line and you can’t go any faster. And by the way, you can’t stay at red line for any period of time, because the system will blow.”
Cuomo said schools and nonessential businesses will now remain closed until April 29, and announced fines for violating social distancing rules would increase from a maximum of $500 to $1,000. As of today, New York state has nearly 5,000 recorded deaths from COVID-19, with over 131,000 confirmed cases and over 16,000 hospitalizations.
The Trump administration and local governments are facing calls to release more detailed information on the racial makeup of who is dying from the pandemic. Initial evidence shows African Americans have been particularly hard hit. In Louisiana, where the death toll has topped 500, Governor John Bel Edwards says 70% of the victims have been African-American, even though the state is less than a third black.
Gov. John Bel Edwards: “Disturbingly, this information is going to show you that slightly more than 70% of all the deaths in Louisiana are of African Americans, almost — I’m sorry, slightly more than 70%. And so, that deserves more attention, and we’re going to have to dig into that and see what we can do.”
In Chicago, African Americans have made up over 70% of the COVID-19 deaths in the city despite comprising just 30% of the city’s population. On Monday, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law joined with hundreds of doctors urging the Department of Health and Human Services to release race and ethnicity breakdowns of COVID fatalities.
The American Civil Liberties Union has sued a federal prison in Oakdale, Louisiana, after five prisoners died from COVID-19. The ACLU is attempting to force the Federal Bureau of Prisons to release prisoners who are at high risk for serious illness or death due to the outbreak. This comes as authorities in Ohio report three prisoners have died from suspected cases of the coronavirus at a federal prison in Elkton. The Ohio National Guard has been deployed to work inside the prison.
As countries impose lengthy lockdowns to combat the spread of the coronavirus, reported cases of domestic abuse have spiked around the world. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres called for governments to prioritize women’s safety as many face mounting risks in and outside of their homes.
Secretary-General António Guterres: “For many women and girls, the threat looms largest where they should be safest: in their own homes. And so I make a new appeal today for peace at home, and in homes, around the world. We know lockdowns and quarantines are essential to suppressing COVID-19. But they can trap women with abusive partners. Over the past weeks, as economic and social pressures and fear have grown, we have seen a horrifying global surge in domestic violence.”
On Monday, France reported its highest daily death toll, after numbers from this weekend appeared to indicate the daily fatality count was slowing down. France’s overall death toll is approaching 9,000 — the third highest in Europe after Italy and Spain — with confirmed cases approaching 100,000.
Spain, which has the second-highest death toll on the continent with over 13,000 deaths, announced over 40,000 people had recovered and been discharged from hospitals. In more news from Spain, the minister for economic affairs has said the government plans to implement a universal basic income “as soon as possible” to help workers and families recover from the devastation of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Guatemalan government has asked the U.S. to limit deportations to 25 people per airplane to control the spread of the coronavirus. In recent weeks, two immigrants deported from the U.S. to Guatemala tested positive for COVID-19 and were later hospitalized.
As part of their social distancing measures, Peru and Panama are limiting the movement of residents by alternating days on which men can leave their homes with days when women can go outside. Transgender activists in Panama have spoken out against the system.
Venus Tejada: “Women were filming some of my trans friends that were at a supermarket, and they said, 'This isn't their day. Why are they coming out if they are men?’ They were dressed as women because this is how we dress, this is our gender expression. There’s been a mistake. The president came out saying that they study things before making an announcement. I don’t think they studied our situation. Panama doesn’t have a gender identity policy right now.”
In Pakistan, dozens of doctors and nurses were arrested in the city of Quetta Monday as hundreds protested the government’s failure to provide them with personal protective gear. Riot police also reportedly beat them with batons. Pakistan has reported nearly 4,000 COVID-19 cases and over 50 deaths.
India has stepped back plans to halt exports of the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine after the Trump administration threatened to retaliate against the planned move. India is the world’s largest producer of hydroxychloroquine, which President Trump has repeatedly encouraged Americans to try and touted as a “game changer” in treating COVID-19 symptoms, despite medical experts warning more tests were needed.
Two French doctors have provoked outrage after suggesting last week that a vaccine for the coronavirus could be tested in Africa. The World Health Organization’s Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus — who is from Ethiopia — called the comments racist and said, “Africa can’t and won’t be a testing ground for any vaccine.”
The United States is facing new accusations of blocking the shipment of U.S.-made medical equipment to overseas buyers. Ontario Premier Doug Ford said Monday the U.S. blocked delivery of 3 million face masks to Canada as Ontario’s stock of personal protective equipment is set to run out in just one week. Over the weekend, Germany accused the U.S. of “modern piracy” after a shipment of 200,000 German-bound protective face masks were diverted. Meanwhile, Barbados said Sunday the U.S. had seized a shipment of 20 ventilators headed to the island.
In related news, the Associated Press is reporting federal purchasing contracts show the Trump administration waited until mid-March before bulk-ordering N95 masks, ventilators and other essential medical equipment, even though hospitals and several states were already overwhelmed with an onslaught of coronavirus patients and were pleading for reinforcement from the Strategic National Stockpile.
Cardinal George Pell, who has been accused of sexually assaulting boys, walked free from prison Tuesday after Australia’s highest court overturned his conviction. Pell was sentenced to six years in jail last year for sexually abusing underage boys and is the highest-ranking member of the Catholic Church to have been convicted of a sexual crime. He had been found guilty of multiple criminal acts and the abuse of two choir boys in 1996. Pell served as the Vatican’s chief financial officer.
The United Nations says a deadly shelling of a women’s prison in Yemen’s Taiz province Sunday could amount to a war crime. At least five prisoners were killed and two dozen injured, including four children, according to Yemeni officials. The attack has been blamed on Houthi rebels.
For the first time ever, the U.S. has labeled a white supremacist group a terrorist organization. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Monday the Russian Imperial Movement would be designated a “foreign terrorist organization,” and imposed sanctions on its members. The group is said to support neo-Nazi groups in Russia and in parts of Europe and provide paramilitary training to white supremacists.